Chasen’s

The legendary dining place of the stars was over at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Doheny in a building that is now a Bristol Farms market.  Perhaps, once upon a time, the food was the star attraction but by the time I began going there from time to time in the eighties, the star attraction was the star attraction…being able to say, “Gregory Peck was dining right across the room.”  My own most memorable experience there (recounted here) was a meal with Jimmy Stewart.  I also lunched there the last day it was open and Nancy Reagan was in the next booth.

For this, one paid about twice the price of similar food almost anywhere else.  I never found the meals worth the price and the service, if you weren’t a regular or famous, could be downright curt.  I observed the striking contrast when I dined there with Mr. Stewart as opposed to someone who wasn’t famous.  I didn’t expect to be treated as courteously when not with Mr. Stewart as with, but the difference was greater than it had to be.  The Stewart-less time, we were seated at a table the size of a Cheerios box and the waiter had the attitude of, “Why do I have to wait on you?” with the “you” dripping in dismissal.  It must not have been typical of the hospitality there or the place would have closed long before it did.

When it did finally shut down, there were many “end of an era” articles and tributes, all recounting the glory days when you might see Bogart pop in for a bowl of chili.  No doubt the fact that it ceased to be “The Place Where the Stars Eat” contributed to its demise but I also think the price/value ratio and catering to the famous had an awful lot to do with it.  If you wanted to overpay for London Broil, there were better places to do that. Especially if they didn’t know who you were.

66 Responses to Chasen’s

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Indeed, so many wonderful stories! E.g. Paul E. et al! Alas, Paul J: Imagine! So many Dudes back then when that was there “full time job”…their career! Imagine in the ’60s you could get a Filet for $5.50 at a fine dining joynt, e.g. Scandia. Imagine…less than a dollar tip at 15%. Imagine trying to be a  BigBubba one night: you shelled out $7.50!!!! for your party of 4 including drinks! for service today you feel you must leave 18% for the, at best, perfunctory Service ya get today?!
    A Bestest Memory: The Steak House at the top of the Mint overlooking Vegas…maybe when the Horseshoe had taken it over: anyway, the tuxed waiter apparently saw me, Mr. Cheapo, counting pennies, debating the Lobster Tail and Filet Mignon and proffered he’d have them split for us and served as a Surf n Turf for each. Ya know, it doesn’t get any effing better than that!
    Alas and also back then, in the days when strapless evening gowns were venturing onto the scene, I’d heard that waiters…sometimes only Maitre ‘Ds…. carried a ServingSpoon… in their pants pockets (to be kept warm by body heat) just in case Madam had…how shall we say…a spillage! Never seen it activated nor reported on Snopes, but indeed…https://tinyurl.com/l5zxc68 of Service!

  • Paul Rolf Jensen says:

    I first dined at Chasen’s at the age of 17 in 1975 when I went there on a date. The service was singularly impeccable, and although I was far from it, I was ALWAYS treated like a VIP. ALWAYS. Once, when I was about age 22, there was a mix-up when I was served a vintage bottle of wine, instead of the non-vintage I had ordered (I failed to look at the label when the captain presented the bottle) and embarrasingly, simply didn’t have enough cash to pay. Even then I was treated with respect and courtesy, and was told simply, “these things do happen, we understand”, and I mailed a check the next day. While I saw many, many celebrities there over the decades, and the quality of the food was sometimes disparaged (by others, I never had any complaints) that wasn’t important to me. I came to Chasen’s for the service, and the ambiance. I truly felt I was always treated as if I were royalty, instead of just some random teenager from Laguna Beach. I remembered the names of my 2 or 3 favorite waiters, and asked for them, and they always remembered my name. My dates were SO impressed when the waiter came up to our table and said to me, age 19, “Mr. Jensen, so nice to see you again; welcome back” in a tone of voice that convinced me he really meant it. I celebrated no less than 5 birthdays there over the years, and I even had my bachelor party in a private room in 1993. On more than one occasion Mrs. Chasen herself said hello to me. To anyone that reads this that formerly worked at Chasen’s, I have but two words: THANK YOU!

  • Paul Esbrandt says:

    Connie, I sometimes would feel bad if I couldn’t tell someone that so and so was there that night. Sometimes I would have celeb’s ask me if any famous people were in the restaurant that night. I remember Audrey Meadows from the Honeymooners was always interested.
    Sometimes I wish I hadn’t said anything. Funny story, one night I was working the Mayfair room and a lady asked me if there were any celeb’s there that night. I told her Jack Nicholson had just come in. She got up out of her chair and ran into the bar area, just as Mr. Nicholson was going into the men’s room. She followed him into the men’s room as he was standing in front of the urinal. He yelled at her, “Lady, do you mind, I’m trying to pee”. I wish I hadn’t said anything.

  • CONNIE DACCI says:

    My son and I went when my son was 6 yrs. Old, he’s 52 now we did not see any stars but it was a thrill to go to such a famous restaurant.

  • CONNIE DACCI says:

    How fascinating, my sister in law took my son and I to chases, for lunch we did not get to see any stars but it was a thrill to go to such a Famous restaurant. My s

  • Robert Diston says:

    Where can I buy a book about Chasen’s?

  • Bob R Hess says:

    Do any of your readers have the Original Receipt of Chasen’s Chili that Lis Taylor had flown over to her London location daily?

  • Denyse says:

    What I remember of Chasen’s is being there around 1968 with some Canadian restauranteers (Hy Aisenstadt of Hy’s Steakhouses, Hans Prager and others) and having a gigantic mound of crushed ice piled high with oysters, crab, shrimp and probably much more. It took up the entire table. Don’t remember what we had as entrees.

  • Ed Wilson says:

    My grandfather used to hang out there with friends Al Jolson, Bob Hope, and the rest. My mom remembers going there as a kid with her father every week.

  • Sheila mackey says:

    I have an old chase s menu from the 80s with autographs of Farrah fawset , Ryan O’Neal, play writes, Johnny cash and wife and others, where can I sell this!!

  • Judy Scheer says:

    Paul – Thank you. What great stories about Booth #22. Really appreciate your sharing. There is a play opening at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood, “In a Booth at Chasen’s” about Ron and Nancy Reagan’s courtship — and that might interest you and others on this feed. Best to you – Judy

  • Paul Esbrandt says:

    Judy, here is some more history of that table:
    Boothe #22, I can’t speak of all the celebs that sat at that table, but I have some interesting experiences that I had with some notable people. I do know Burt Lancaster used to sit at that table.
    I remember Van Johnson use to like to sit at Boothe #22 as well, and he would complain to me that is Agent or Manager was sitting with him would only allow him to eat broiled fish. He liked me, and he used to call me, “Baltimore”. I don’t think he remembered my name, but he could remember where I was from. He used to sit facing the door on the left side of the booth.
    I remember the first time I saw Natalie Wood’s daughters they were sitting in Boothe #22 with their dad Robert Wagner. Then one other time I recall Anthony Quinn sitting on the right side of the booth with two women who I didn’t know, and his son sitting across from him on the left side. Francesco Quinn who had just done a movie called, “Platoon”. I approached him and told him that I was a Vietnam Veteran and that was quite a performance he had done. And, I meant it. That did end up being his break-out performance, I didn’t say anything to his dad, I figured he was bothered enough, but, I always loved his performances as well. As I was walking away, I overheard his dad ask his son what I had said to him. Later on, I read on the IMDB that Francesco felt always in the shadow of his father, so I was glad that I had approached him, and especially in front of his dad. Francesco Quinn died in 2011 at the tender age of 48. RIP Some of my experiences with Boothe #22. http://esbrandt.com/chasens-restaurant.html

  • Judy Scheer says:

    And I own the original “Burt Lancaster” Booth #22 bought at the Chasen’s auction held on October 17, 1999 from auctioneer A.Z. Stein and Company, complete with an original, framed menu and all authenticating documentation. Please contact me if interested in purchasing.

  • Sir William Harper. says:

    My Grandmother was dining there one evening with her American cousin sometime in the early 1950s when she noticed directly opposite them on another table were a couple causing quite a stir and being photographed. My Grandmother asked the waiter who the couple were and he replied they were the latest celebrity couple being Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.

  • Bobby Thompson says:

    I don’t recall the year , my sister & brother-In-Law took my mother and myself to Chason’s,it was probably my 3rd or 4th time there.Ronald Reagen was there with about 8 people(no Nancy),he was at the table across from us,I couldn’t believe it!I was so star struck,I didn’ have the nerve to ask him for his autograph even when he walked around the place with a pad and pen!I had a blast that night anyway.

  • Scott Yonover says:

    In march, 2018, marjorie says:
    January 15, 2018 at 11:33 am
    If anyone is interested- I own the “Frank Sinatra booth” , the bar , martini glasses, and the he front awning shown in the photo above. bought it and other items at auction when it closed. I am willing to sell at the right price. all authenticated, and note from Nancy Sinatra congragulating us on purchase.

    I would like to purchase it, but her email is not on it? Can you help?1

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